Irish agriculture needs greater integration of the dairy and beef sectors, says Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) livestock chair Des Morrison.
The Sligo dairy and beef farmer made the comments while reminding farmers that the closing date for those intending to participate in the Dairy Beef Calf Programme for 2022 is Monday 25 April.
Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal on Friday, Morrison said that he was confident of a “really encouraging take-up” and that while he hasn’t received formal figures from the Department of Agriculture, he understands that there has been “more interest and a higher uptake this year than last year”.
The scheme offers farmers a payment per head of €20 per dairy beef calf, up to a maximum of 40 animals.
Morrison said this is a “hopelessly inadequate headage payment and unrealistic numbers limit” and noted that the ICMSA has called for a payment of up to €75 per head for up to a limit of 80 to 100 calves.
The ICMSA livestock chair also confirmed that the 2022 programme has been altered to allow calves born from 1 July 2021 to qualify for payment.
Previously, the cut-off date for payment eligibility was 31 October.
No ‘linear cut’
Morrison said that the Department has been “convinced the scheme needs more”, but that it’s “about finding the money”.
He said that if the scheme is oversubscribed, the “money should be found somewhere” and warned against any form of “linear cut” to those who’ve applied.
He said that the ICMSA has been the main farm organisation pushing for the uptake to and improvement of the Dairy Beef Calf Programme and called on other farm organisations to support these objectives.
Morrison said: “The record shows that [the] ICMSA was the sponsoring organisation for this scheme. We identified it and lobbied the Department relentlessly to get the idea taken on board.
"To us, the logic is obvious: we need greater integration of dairy and beef sectors and we have to look at the fact that the majority of Irish beef is already coming from the dairy side.
“Let’s look at the reality and build on that. There are no downsides to this and if we can get the payments rates up to a realistic rate and look at the numbers limits, then we will have a real option to put in front of farmers.
"That’s always been [the] ICMSA’s target here: just put viable and sustainable options in front of farmers and they’ll recognise and avail of them.”